Friday, February 04, 2005

Brit Channel 4 TV Backs Chechen Terrorist Warlord

Yahoo! News - Chechen Warlord Interview Rankles Russia: "Chechen Warlord Interview Rankles Russia

By STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW - Russia lashed out at Britain on Friday after an independent TV channel there aired an interview with Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev, saying the broadcast amounted to terrorist propaganda and calling for an investigation.

The Foreign Ministry expressed "deep regret" that Channel 4 aired the interview with "the famous terrorist-murderer Shamil Basayev" and condemned it as "direct informational support of terrorists operating in the North Caucasus," the Russian region that includes Chechnya (news - web sites).

Channel 4 defended the interview, saying it had sent Basayev questions and later received instructions to pick up a package containing video discs in an undisclosed Middle Eastern city. It said the video appeared to have been recorded about three weeks ago.

"It is simply not the case that the running of such material can be equated with condoning it," the network said in a statement.

The ministry said Moscow is concerned that the interview was broadcast in the nation that currently chairs the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, "where the struggle against terrorism is one of the key themes," and suggested the broadcast violated U.N. anti-terror resolutions.

"In the current conditions, any attempts to justify providing a tribune to terrorists with the blood of innocent victims, including children, on their hands by citing the freedom of speech look at least cynical," the statement said.

Basayev, who claimed responsibility for the September hostage-taking raid on a school in the southern Russian city of Beslan that ended with more than 330 captives dead, said in the Channel 4 interview that separatist rebels were planning more such operations.

Basayev expressed regret for the hundreds of deaths in the attack, but blamed Russian forces who stormed the school. He said the school siege had originally been planned for Moscow or St. Petersburg — much further from Chechnya — but that militants had run out of money.

The Russian statement said that publicizing threats from Basayev, who it said is on an Interpol wanted list and a U.N. list of terrorists, "is in no way compatible with common human morals and the values of democratic society."

"We expect an adequate reaction from the British court system, without which any citation of the principles of a law-based state would look like empty words," it said.

Russia also criticized Britain for granting asylum to Ahkmed Zakayev, an envoy of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov. Zakayev's presence in Britain has harmed relations between Moscow and London, prompting Russian accusations of double standards on terrorism.

Also Friday, prosecutors in southern Russia said the attackers who were killed in the Beslan school seizure have been buried at an undisclosed location and, in accordance with Russian law, without notification of their relatives.

Russian authorities have said that there were 32 assailants and that 31 of them were killed."